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Press: Exorcisms avoided at Lambeth — but schism?

12 August 2022

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THE last time I was at a Lambeth Conference, in 1998, I was about three feet from the action when the Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma told the Revd Richard Kirker that the Bible prescribed stoning for his sort and then tried to exorcise him. So I can see that the Anglican Communion has made progress since then. It’s harder for non-specialists to grasp this subtle point.

A conference without a single bishop attempting to exorcise another in front of the television cameras is a low bar to clear, even if Archbishop Welby cleared it handily. Who can know whether this is due to the presence of the Holy Spirit or the absence of Nigerian bishops?

Fifty or so African bishops sitting, stone-faced and with folded arms, when invited to the eucharist would have made less impressive television even if the cameras had been allowed. They shocked my informant among the bishops, though.

While the consensus in the church press seemed to be that Archbishop Welby had managed to finesse the schism; from the outside, not so much.

Sandi Toksvig’s letter to the Archbishop denouncing the reassertion of Lambeth 1.10 got a lot of play; so did his elegant return of service, offering her coffee at Lambeth Palace. This was brave. I am not sure that even his considerable charm can overcome the impact on an unbeliever of church coffee.

Not everyone was impressed by Ms Toksvig. Gareth Roberts, in The Spectator, most certainly wasn’t: “St Sandi’s letter to the Cantabrians is a masterpiece of faux-chummy passive-aggression, gratingly twee and self-satisfied. She addresses Welby as ‘Justin’ throughout (I am grateful that we were at least spared her saying ‘Archbish’), and it’s written in an unbearable jolly, golly-gosh, niminy-piminy, ‘cave girls, it’s Matron!’ vernacular. Just nice old Sandi asking the old A of C for a chin-wobble over a mug of froth. I am both an atheist and a homosexual of long standing, and I found it insufferable.”

Matthew Parris, in The Times, summed up the view of the generally benevolent section of the British public: “Within the English Church, ‘walking together’ is now the path of avoidance. We gays are done with all that ‘feeling your pain’ business. We feel no pain about being gay. We do feel pain about Welby’s evasion. Gay people in this country don’t need shoulders to cry on. That was 1980. This is 2022. There is nothing more to explain, nothing to discuss, nothing to ‘understand’ and no need for sympathy. Simple respect is what’s missing from the Church.

“There was something elemental, something stirring about Toksvig’s rage. Jesus’s kicking over the money-changers’ tables in the temple comes to mind. Blind fury in a just cause has its place, and the Lambeth Conference last week has brought us to that place. . . Banning the celebration of same-sex unions is an insult to the whole of England.”

One indication of the width of the schism is that the English commentary dealt exclusively with the matter of same-sex weddings in churches. The idea that the Church might be trying to ban gay sex altogether was too far-fetched to consider.

 

THE most revealing thing written about the Archie Battersbee case (Press, 5 August) came from Dr Rachel Clarke, in The Guardian: “If a person’s brain stem has died – for instance, through prolonged lack of oxygen — their body can only be kept alive with artificial life support; breathing only occurs because mechanical ventilators, invented in the 1950s, forcibly push air in and out of the lungs.

“Mechanical ventilation enables time for the staggeringly altruistic gift of organ donation. Yet it also generates the immensely painful and bewildering experience for some families of seeing their loved one apparently asleep — chest rhythmically rising and falling — only to be told that they have died.”

The material put out by Christian Concern, meanwhile, continued to show that the first casualty of spiritual warfare is truth.

 

WHILE on the subject of fake news, one of the masters of the form, the American radio host and internet personality Alex Jones may finally have got his just come-uppance. A jury in Texas awarded nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook primary-school shooting in 2012. Other lawsuits are pending. Mr Jones had accused them repeatedly of being “crisis actors”, hired by the gun-control lobby to pretend to have been bereaved in a massacre that, he said, never happened. This kind of lying has made him a fortune estimated at nearly half a billion dollars. Documents accidentally released by his lawyer shows that advertising on his show can make him up to $800,000 a day.

Hugo Rifkind, in The Times, wrote that “online disinformation is less about liars than it is about believers. And when somebody has gone wrong, I also learnt, it is no use to tell them the truth. For they don’t want the truth. They want the belief. And they will find a way to keep it.”

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